Sunday night Mass is one of my favorite parts of my week at Georgetown. The 9:30pm service in Dahlgren of the Sacred Heart helps to slow me down, put my life in perspective, and notice God working in my life. Conscious of the benefits of starting my week with Mass, I decided to also attend Sunday night Mass during my semester in Amman.
Thanks to the suggestion of a few folks at Georgetown, tonight I went to Mass at an English-language parish that holds Masses in a few Catholic churches in the neighborhood. The presider is an American Jesuit priest with friends at Georgetown, and the congregation is made up mostly of Filipino families. (Surprising to many others and me, Jordan has a large Filipino and Sri Lankan foreign worker population.)
Even before arriving at the church, I felt welcomed by the community, especially the priest, who I called frantically from my cab to ask for nearby landmarks that the cab driver would recognize. (No one uses addresses or street names here.) The priest didn’t get frustrated when I called a second time, this time as I walked from where the cabby dropped me off near a supermarket.
When I reached the church, I was immediately asked to read the first reading, which has always been my favorite way to participate in Mass since I was in first grade. I read a passage from Deuteronomy about prophethood, a topic that has always resonated with me in different religious traditions.
Throughout the Mass, I was struck by differences, and I want to share some of my observations in the hopes that later they’ll come together more coherently.
-Provided by some of the Filipino women with guitars and a tambourine, the music is simple but pretty, and the song sheet is decorated with music notes and quotes of saints about the importance of praying through song.
-The intercessions are much more specific and almost political. We prayed for the violence in Syria, Nigeria, and Somalia to be resolved peacefully; for leaders at the economic summit; and for those with birthdays, including King Abdullah II of Jordan.
-The Eucharist is distributed differently in the Jerusalem province (Jerusalem—how cool!) Everyone receives the host on their tongue after it has been dipped in the wine.
-As people return to their seats after Communion, many people stop before a statue of Mary, and touch her blue cloak or the rosary she holds.
These differences from Mass at home, whether I liked them or not, reminded me of how much I miss my home at Dahlgren of the Sacred Heart.
I miss the smoky waves of incense that curl around the swinging gold bulb, and the aroma that lingers in the church for the rest of the week, greeting me when I stop in for a quick prayer under the bright stained glass windows. I miss walking into the church early to prepare for the service, and peeking inside the tabernacle to see the embroidered lamb on the inside of the gold door. I miss setting the credence table with two chalices and crisp purificators—and having to stop to listen to the choir as it hits a crescendo while practicing the evening’s hymns. I miss that the homilies actually have an impact on the way I think, the way I live, the way I pray.
Though I miss Dahlgren, and the people who are the heart of that place, I realize that in Amman I also have a spiritual home. Like Dahlgren, this parish in Amman is called Sacred Heart.
I have confidence that those who make up this sacred heart in Amman will teach me, challenge me, and love me in new ways. By the end of my time here, I hope I will be writing again about how I miss Sunday night Masses at this Sacred Heart, where old men grab the hem of Our Lady’s blue dress.